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Circus Trip 2018: Fallingwater

Day 39 & 40, Thursday & Friday, August 23 & 24, 2018

Rockwood & Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Thursday was a rest day.  It had been a little while since I had a day just spent at the campground, but there was another reason too.  My former employer was being sued, and I was being deposed as a witness in the lawsuit.  I have to admit that it was an odd experience, laying in my car bed with my laptop at the ready (part of the deposition was answering questions about exhibit documents), answering the attorney’s questions under oath.  It is not an unheard of experience in my career, but it was the first time I’ve ever been deposed while hanging out in a campground in Pennsylvania!  I’m just glad I didn’t have to fly home for the deposition!

The rest of the day, I relaxed, took some walks, and wrote.  The Hickory Hollow Campground in Rockwood was mostly set up for RVs, and I had the tent area all to myself!  Unfortunately, the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania was quite cool during my visit, so I didn’t have an opportunity to check out the pool at the campground.

 

Friday I was back at it, and ready to see a highlight of the trip.  The architect Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating to me.  I have enjoyed visiting the homes he has designed and seeing how he incorporates nature (and styles representing nature) into his designs.  So it is no surprise that I was excited to visit Fallingwater!

Fallingwater is considered to be Wright’s masterpiece.  It was built in 1935 for Liliane Kaufmann and her husband Edgar, owners of the Pittsburgh based Kaufmann’s department store.  The Pittsburgh wealthy had long been building homes in the Laurel Highlands area outside of Pittsburgh, and the Kaufmanns were no exception.  What is unique, however, is the home.  Fallingwater is built directly over a waterfall on Bear Run, and incorporates the waterfall and the stream into the design of the home.

It is incredible!  There are stairs from the living room of the home to access the water below.  There are 4 bedrooms and six bathrooms in the home.  Fallingwater has several sections that are cantilevered, meaning they are only supported at one end, including the living room and the outdoor balconies. The home is constructed with concrete and locally quarried Pottsville sandstone, and a series of cantilevered “trays” make up the home over the waterfall.  Wright called his style organic architecture, where stone floors continue inside and out, corner windows blur the lines between interior and exterior, and glass is used in abundance to bring the outdoors in.

Wright wanted the design to be in harmony with nature, and he did not want to have unnecessary braces or structural support.  Wright also insisted that he design the furniture on most of the homes he designed, and Fallingwater contains the original furniture that came with the home.  The Kaufmanns were permitted to display some of their own knick-knacks and artwork; Wright liked to control every detail of the homes he designed.

Unfortunately, there were some disagreements between Wright and the contractors, and the owners of the house.  The Kaufmanns were concerned about whether Wright had enough experience working with concrete and structural engineers recommended much more structural bracing than Wright wanted; the owners had the additional bracing added in spite of Wright’s protests.  Even with this additional structural support added, a study done several years ago showed that the cantilevers were still in danger, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has had to add additional support in recent years.

 

The tour was very interesting and gave a lot of information about the Kaufmanns and their prized home.  Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside, and there were far too many people on the tour to sneak any, but I did wander the grounds and I made sure to get the iconic shot of the home and the Bear Run waterfall.  Fallingwater is certainly worth a visit if you have the chance!

 

Westport Weekend: June 2019

June 21 – 23, 2019

Last year I went to the beach at Westport, Washington on the weekend of the summer solstice!  We wanted to ring in the beginning of summer in style!  Now mind you, the coast in Washington in the summer is not guaranteed to be warm, and may be downright freezing, so don’t be expecting any photos of shorts and people lounging in the sand.  We still had a great time!

Lelani and I left work early on Friday and drove down; we were camping and wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to get set up and get dinner made.  Other friends were joining us too!  She headed down to my work to pick me up and we stopped off for lunch at Kona Kitchen, a great Hawaiian place near my work!  We soon found out that we might have been better off eating on the road…

As usual, traffic in Seattle on a Friday afternoon was terrible, but at least we were entertained by tracking our progress against “the head”…

We camped at one of the Loge Resorts (yes, my spelling is correct); if you haven’t been to one, they have been converting old motels into new hipster-chic facilities.  The one we stayed at had camping (both tent and small RV sites), hotel rooms, and a hostel dormitory.  There was a stage with music on weekends, fire pits, and communal BBQ’s.  It was a fun place to stay, and the tent site was covered; that came in handy because it rained!  Drawbacks were the fact that you were approximately 4 feet from your neighbor in the next tent site over.  My neighbor snored, so the earplugs I always carry when I travel came in handy.

Saturday we checked out the harbor, where we watched people crabbing and fishing, and listened to the seabirds overhead.  We went to the beach too, and enjoyed some time spent searching for sand dollars and walking the beach.  You don’t have to spend too much time searching for sand dollars there; you really just have to wander around picking them up, as the beach is covered with them!  If you go though, make sure to only collect the dead ones, which are already white or a faded tan color; the live ones are a purplish black color.

That afternoon we visited the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse – you can climb to the top and see the view, and the third-order Fresnel lens.  The lighthouse was completed in March 1898, and stands 107 feet tall with 135 steps to get to the top.  It is worth it though – that view!  Originally, the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse sat about 400 feet from the waterline, in the last 120 years, the beach has experienced significant accretion, so it is now about 4,000 feet from the water!  I always enjoy seeing lighthouses when I travel and I especially appreciate when I can climb to the top.

We also visited the Westport Winery; they have an extensive tasting list consisting of a few whites, lots of reds and several fruit wines.  They had a sparkling wine that I really liked, and I purchased a couple of bottles to take home.  That evening we made a delicious dinner of steak shish-ka-bobs and corn on the cob, and ate our dinner while watching a guitarist perform on the outdoor stage.  It was fun to see!

Then, before dark, we headed out to the beach to watch the sunset and have a campfire on the beach.  See all those clouds in the photo below?  That made for a pretty much non-existent sunset, but oh well!  It was still pretty, but it was soooo cold and windy that night!  I really had to bundle up!  Are you sure this is summer?

The next morning Lelani and I went for an early morning walk on the beach before we packed up our gear to head home.  We found a little restaurant downtown, where I had hashbrowns, eggs, and fried oysters; it was so delicious!  About noon, we got on the road for another long, trafficky drive home…  What a great weekend though!

 

Circus Trip 2018: The Sights of Cuyahoga Valley

Day 36, Monday, August 20, 2018

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Monday was my second day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I intended to make the most of my day!  I hadn’t slept well the night before though, so it took a bit to get going.

Me feeling pensive at the Streetsboro KOA

I started with a short walk to the Everett Covered Bridge, the last remaining covered bridge in Summit County, Ohio.  There used to be over 2,000 covered bridges in the county!  Sadly, though, this one is a reconstruction.  The original Everett Covered Bridge went over Furnace Run, and was based on an 1869 Smith Truss design, but the date of construction is unknown.  In the flood of 1913, the bridge was damaged, but repaired.  In 1975, a spring storm destroyed the original bridge for good.  A local fundraising campaign earned enough money to rebuild the bridge, and this historically accurate reconstruction was completed in 1986.

After checking out the bridge, I found a spot next to Furnace Run to relax for a little bit and watched some trail riders take their horses in the shallow water.  It was so peaceful!

Trail riders at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Next up was a 3/4 mile (each way) walk to the Hale Farm, where the first buildings were constructed about 1825.  This living history farm is privately owned, and closed on Mondays, so I didn’t get to see it except from the fence line, but it was still a nice walk and cool to check out.  We don’t have anything that old at home in the Pacific Northwest!

I went over to Beaver Marsh to try my hand at wildlife spotting.  Jackpot!  The marsh has a wooden boardwalk going over it, so you can walk out over the water.  It was amazing!  I saw snapping turtles, painted turtles, wood ducks, song birds, a Great Blue Heron and lots of fish in the water.  I spent quite a bit of time in one spot, watching what I thought was a snapping turtle but wasn’t positive.  I wanted to wait to see if he would move – and he finally did!

It was a nice relaxing day, and I enjoyed seeing more of the park, and doing the series of shorter walks.  Even though I spent two days there, I still feel like there is way more to see there; I will certainly have to come back!

That evening I went to the grocery store to replenish my food, and spent another night at the Streetsboro KOA.  It rained hard that night!

Circus Trip 2018: Brandywine Falls

Day 35, Sunday, August 19, 2018

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

My first day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park I did some exploring.  I didn’t know much about Cuyahoga Valley before I went, so I was curious to see what it was all about.  I entered through a side road towards the middle of the park, although I didn’t know that at the time!  Later I learned that Cuyahoga Valley National Park is kind of a long, skinny park going through the valley, with some fingers of land going off to the sides at some points, and a main road traveling through it.

I stopped to check out the Happy Days Camp near The Ledges section of the park, which was built by the CCC during the Great Depression as a youth camp.  These days the building is used as an events center, but it was quiet the day that I was there.  Nearby there is also a community cemetery, which like many old cemeteries, has seen better days.  It was still cool to see it and wander among the old graves; the trail to get to the area from the parking lot even took me under the street through a culvert!

Next I checked out the Boston Store Visitor’s Center and got my passport stamp and some postcards.  I also got some information on hikes – the ranger explained that many of the waterfall hikes would be a bit disappointing in the height of summer, as many of the waterfalls dry up.  I decided to hike to Brandywine Falls, a 65 foot waterfall; the tallest waterfall in the park.  I left my car at the Boston Store Visitor’s Center, and headed down the Towpath Trail.

The Towpath Trail follows the old Ohio and Erie canal, which was built in the 1820s to provide an easier route to move goods to and from the Great Lakes.  I walked along the Towpath Trail for about a mile (best guess), and looked at the canal walls and the remains of the locks that evened out the water levels along the canal.  How cool!  It was a sunny, hot day, and there were a lot of runners and bikers on the trail, but not many walkers like me.  I turned off at the Stanford House, a historic home that was built in 1843 along the canal.  James Stanford originally settled the property in 1806, after coming to the area as a part of a survey group.  When he died in 1827, he willed his property to his oldest son George, who built the home and a number of outbuildings, including the barn which also still stands today.

After passing the home down a few generations of Stanfords and then their neighbors, the home was purchased by the National Park Service in 1978, who operated it as a hostel for several years before converting it to a community meeting space with overnight accommodations.  It is such a pretty property, and the trail to get to Brandywine Falls passes through it. You pass through a meadow, and walk through a forest with bedrock outcroppings, and cross over a little stream a few times on the way to the falls.  There were other people, but it wasn’t too busy except at the falls itself!

There are a number of good views of the falls from a boardwalk that is built into the bedrock, the falls are in between rock outcroppings.  It isn’t very tall based on my west coast waterfall standard, but it is pretty!

From the Stanford House the trail to Brandywine Falls is about 3.6 miles if you do the entire loop, but with starting from the Boston Store I would estimate you add another 2 miles round-trip.  That’s a pretty good hike!  There are some stairs, but the total elevation gain is only about 190 feet, so although the park rates it as moderate to difficult, I rated it as easy.  If you aren’t interested in hiking to the falls, you can park up above them and just take a short walk down the boardwalk to the viewpoint; that isn’t as fun, in my opinion!

After my hike, I headed back to the Boston Store, and got a sandwich and some iced tea to eat in the sunshine, before heading back to my campground for the night.  What a nice day!

 

President’s Day Weekend 2020

It’s late, and time for bed, but I just wanted to check in.  I got home a few hours ago from a wonderful, fun, relaxing, energizing weekend in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Jeff and I spent the weekend at Champoeg State Park in a little cabin; it was just what I needed.  Here’s to a short work week!

P.S. And a happy belated birthday to my favorite President, Abraham Lincoln.

 

Circus Trip 2018: What I Learned in a Month

August 2018

By the time I was wandering around the Mary Todd Lincoln House in August of 2018, I had been on the road for a month, camping and living out of my car.  I was proud of myself, to be quite honest, because I had imagined all sorts of things going wrong, and having all sorts of meltdowns while parked along the side of the road, and none of that had happened.  I’m being a little dramatic here, but I had worried before I left that I wouldn’t be cut out for the vagabond lifestyle.  Would I be able to do this?

After a month, I felt like I had worked through things.  I felt comfortable being on my own.  I wasn’t freaked out about not having a reservation each night.  I was doing this!  So, to share the knowledge, here’s a few things I learned as a solo woman, road-tripping through the United States.

My car fitted out

  • When in Montana, get gas before you get down to half a tank.  Once, I had more than a half a tank when I departed for my next destination, but given my route, and the distances between towns with gas stations in Montana, I was down to about 20 miles left by the time I saw a gas station!
  • Very few people tent camp in the Midwest.  I was largely alone in the tent section of the campgrounds I went to, as a general rule.

My tent, Mellow Yellow, in Montana

  • Don’t leave your tennis shoes outside at night.  The torrential downpour when I was staying at Boonesboro State Park in Kentucky soaked my tennis shoes through and through, and got them muddy enough that I had to take out the insoles and wash them out in the campground shower.
  • Don’t forget your quarters when you go to do your laundry…
  • Ask the locals for their recommendations on restaurants, hikes, and other places to see.  Even if you don’t have time, you can always put it on the list for next time!

Minnesota Cider – Tea Time Loon Juice – so delicious!

  • Get to your campground before dark.  For safety purposes, of course, but also because it is hard to cook and find your things by the light of a lantern.
  • Know your car.  AKA, if you have a Honda CR-V, don’t open the back doors from the inside without unlocking the doors with the fob.  It sets off the alarm!  Apologies for the early morning wake ups, my fellow campers!
  • Try the local flavor – even if you are saving money by not eating out that often, be sure to check out some of the local fare.  There are fun breweries, good wines, and unique regional dishes all over!

Louisville Hot Brown and a Mint Julep

  • Some of those gadgets are a real lifesaver!  I traveled with an electric cooler that plugged into my car, converters so I could plug regular plugs into the car’s cigarette lighters, rechargeable battery packs, a rechargeable/solar powered lantern, and bug screens for my windows so I could sleep in the car with the windows down on hot nights!  There is so much innovative gear for camping and road trips!
  • Not everybody will be kind, or friendly, or safe.  But most people will. People will definitely look at you funny if you are camping alone.  Just get used to it; they probably don’t mean any harm, and they might even be jealous.

What would you add to the list?

Circus Trip 2018: Abraham Lincoln Birthplace NHP

Day 31, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hodgenville, Kentucky

I have for so long wanted to visit the site where our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln was born.  I have seen where he was a young man, where he was a lawyer, where he was President, and where he died…  It was so humbling to stand at the place where this great man began his life!

Sign Posing!

Lincoln was born here at Sinking Spring Farm (named for the water source) on February 12, 1809; he lived here for the first two years of his life.  His parents, Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln made their living as farmers, and contrary to the usual story, Lincoln didn’t grow up particularly poor, by the standards of the day.  He did move around a lot though, as the family had to leave Sinking Spring Farm after a dispute about the ownership of the land.  They moved to nearby Knob Creek Farm in 1811, when Lincoln was two years old.

The Lincoln family Bible

The birthplace memorial here was completed in 1911, a few years after the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.  A huge marble and granite Memorial Building was built between 1909 and 1911, in Greek and Roman architectural styles.  It has 56 steps up to the building, to represent the 56 years that Lincoln was alive. Sixteen windows on the building and sixteen rosettes on the ceiling represent the fact that he was our nation’s 16th President.  Inside, a symbolic birth cabin gives visitors an idea of what the cabin where Lincoln was born might have looked like.

The symbolic birth cabin was moved to the site when the Memorial Building was constructed, and had to be made smaller to fit inside the building, and to more accurately represent what Lincoln’s first home probably looked like.  At the time the Memorial Building was constructed, many people actually believed that this was the cabin where Lincoln was born.  Later technology allowed them to do dendochronology (tree ring analysis) in 2004 to determine that the cabin was not built until the 1840s, so it could not have been Lincoln’s birthplace.

When I first arrived, it had been pouring down rain, so I hurried into the Visitor’s Center and then hurried over to the Memorial Building.  When I went back outside, the sun had come back out!  I went down the 56 steps of the Memorial Building to check out Sinking Spring, the water feature which gave the farm its name.  Sinking Spring is an underground spring, with an outlet to the surface set down into a hole; this was certainly the first water Abraham Lincoln ever drank!

Knob Creek Farm is also part of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park; it is located ten miles away from Sinking Spring Farm.  Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, this portion of the park was not staffed, so I didn’t get to see inside this cabin.  It was also not original to Lincoln or his family, but belonged to the family of one of the Lincolns’ neighbors.  The young boy who lived in this cabin is thought to have once saved young Abe Lincoln’s life when he fell into Knob Creek.  The cabin was moved here when the historical park was created.  It was peaceful and quiet and interesting to see another place where Lincoln spent time as a child; he lived here from the ages of two to seven.  Another land ownership dispute caused the family’s move to Indiana.

There were several signs posted indicating that Copperhead snakes make their home in the area.  I didn’t see any, but also didn’t go tromping off through the field to the creek!

After leaving Lincoln behind for the day, I made my way to Lexington, Kentucky, where I would be stopping for the night.  I saw a highway sign advertising Wildside Winery and decided to check it out!  They had good wines, and a nice selection of both dry and sweet wines.  I enjoyed talking with my server – it was his first day working at the winery – but he had lived in Brookings, Oregon for eight years, so we had the Pacific Northwest in common!  I purchased four bottles; one was their Wild Duet.  Sadly, they are all long gone now – but they were delicious!

That evening I camped at Boonesboro State Park in Lexington; the first of two nights I would spend there!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Mammoth Cave NP

Day 30, Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

I was excited to visit Mammoth Cave National Park!  I drove down from Louisville for the day and entered the Park on the Flint Ridge Road.  Note: the Park’s website warns visitors to disregard GPS directions, which can take you the wrong way.  My GPS took me this alternate way, but still managed to get me to where I needed to go, with a bonus of seeing a section of the park that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise!

The drawback was that I either somehow missed the entrance sign or there wasn’t one.  I saw a sign on the main road on the way out, but it wasn’t like the typical National Park entrance sign – it left a lot to be desired.  I guess that’s just a reason to go back!

This was the only sign I found!

The Flint Ridge Road takes you by the Mammoth Cave Baptist Church and Cemetery.  The original church was built in 1827; the current building is from 1927.  It is in rough shape, with a hole in the back door, no electricity or other conveniences, and a very old, rustic outhouse in back.  It was very remote, just a few miles from the main Visitor’s Center for the park. I got out and checked it out; the door to the church is not locked, so anyone can go inside.  It was so eerily quiet there, it made me a little nervous…

I wandered the cemetery and read some of the headstones as well.  Floyd Collins is buried in the cemetery.  He died in 1925 after a rock collapse trapped him in Sand Cave, a newly discovered cave nearby; attempts to rescue him made the national news and kept people waiting for word for over two weeks, but ultimately he had died of starvation by the time rescuers reached him.

Sadly the church was vandalized with orange spray paint in September, about a month after my visit.  The trail to go see the entrance to Sand Cave is here too, but I didn’t take the opportunity to hike it.  I’m kicking myself now!

When I got to the Visitor’s Center, I chose to do the Historic Tour.  It was interesting, and explored the long history of cave use.  Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the world with over 400 miles of explored cave passages.

Native Americans used the cave for thousands of years and then stopped.  In the late 1700s, Americans in the area began to use the cave for saltpeter mining; saltpeter is used in the manufacture of gunpowder.  They couldn’t get it anymore from the British due to the Revolutionary War, so local suppliers could make a good profit!

After the war the need for saltpeter dried up so they opened the caves up for commercial tours.  They had used slaves to mine the saltpeter; the slaves learned how to navigate in the caves, which was helpful in their later work as tour guides.  The tour takes you by some of the old saltpeter mining equipment, which was left in the cave after the commercial viability of the venture dried up.

Mammoth Cave was also used for a brief period as a tuberculosis sanitarium – unfortunately it proved ineffective at helping people with tuberculosis.  Total darkness experiments in the cave were also short-lived.

Unfortunately for me, the “Historic” section of the cave isn’t really all that pretty.  This section of the cave has the largest rooms, but there aren’t a lot of beautiful “cave features” that you see in other caves. And you will certainly be disappointed in my photos; it is very dim inside and they don’t let you use flash…  I did enjoy seeing the “graffiti” from the early 1800s; I saw one signature from 1839!

On my next visit I want to do the “Domes and Dripstones Tour”; this tour shows visitors the stalactites and stalagmites, as well as a huge dripstone section called Frozen Niagara, named because it looks like Niagara Falls when it is frozen in the winter.  The Extended Historic Tour is also on my list, because you get to see the stone huts that remain from the period when Mammoth Cave was used as a tuberculosis sanitarium.  That would be cool!

I really enjoyed my visit, but would also love to do more hiking there.  Temperatures were in the 90s with high humidity the day that I visited so I opted not to hike.  It would be fun to stay and camp there too!  You can also float the river, or kayak there!

I stayed that night at the Glendale Campground in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, a convenient jumping off point for my explorations the next day!  This family owned campground was only $20, and my campsite was right near a pond where a Green Heron was fishing!

Circus Trip 2018: Churchill Downs

Day 29, Monday, August 13, 2018

Louisville, Kentucky

Most years, I sit in my living room on the first Saturday in May and watch the Kentucky Derby on TV.  Live from Churchill Downs, the field of colts and a few fillies attempt to become the winner of the Derby and have a chance at winning the Triple Crown, a title which has become the most prestigious in horse racing.  The Kentucky Derby is the first race of the Triple Crown, which also contains the Preakness and the Belmont, raced at other tracks around the country over a five week stretch.

I have always wanted to visit Churchill Downs, especially on Derby Day, to see the crazy hats and feel the excitement of race day!  I spent a few days in Louisville and had a chance to visit the racetrack, although there wasn’t any racing going on that day.  For $15, you can visit the track’s museum and get a tour of the track.  Considering that pre-sale event prices to the infield for the Kentucky Derby start at $65 and $85 on the day of the race, $15 is pretty good!  Of course, other racing days at Churchill Downs aren’t so expensive, so a typical day at the track can be pretty affordable if you aren’t betting and losing!  One day, I will be there on Derby Day!

Churchill Downs opened in 1875; after Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. (William Clark’s grandson) leased the land from his uncles John and Henry Churchill, a prominent Louisville family for many years.  Clark sold subscriptions to the racing club, and used the money to develop the track.  Racing has occurred here since that time, with a number of changes to the track over the years.  The first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875, which means that 2020’s Derby will be the 146th running!

The iconic twin spires on the grandstands weren’t placed until 1895, but have survived weather events since that time, including a tornado that damaged the stables.  The grandstands seat about 50,000, but it is standing room only on the infield on Derby Day and the crowds can grow to almost 170,000 people!

My tour ticket included an interesting movie on the history of the track.  They usher you into a large oval shaped room, and you sit on swivel stools to watch the film, which is projected on the wall above you all around the oval room.  You can swivel on your stool to get a better view of the scenes, and because it is above you, nobody’s head is in the way!  Then the docent took us out to the track – you get to see the grandstands, the saddling area, the track, the winner’s circle and the other views you see on television when you watch the Derby on TV.  They have plaques showing all of the names of the Kentucky Derby winners over the years, and marking the names of those who won the Triple Crown.  Of the 146 winners of the Derby, only thirteen of them have also won the Triple Crown.  Three of the Derby winners have been fillies.

The tour was a bit canned; they clearly have memorized a script and move the tour groups along pretty quickly, but it was really interesting to see the track!  The museum was cool too, with exhibits on the history of the track and the horses that have raced there.  They had a display of hats and the tradition of crazy hats at the Derby, a display of the horseshoes that race horses wear, and an exhibit on the history of African Americans in the Churchill Downs racing industry.  Thirteen of the fifteen horses in the first Kentucky Derby were ridden by African American jockeys, and fifteen of the first twenty-eight Derbies were won by black jockeys.  Of course, it took a long time for them to be recognized for these accomplishments.

One of the Derby’s three winning fillies

After the tour, I did enjoy the restaurant at the track.  They had a special where you could try a Mint Julep and keep the commemorative glass (which actually turned out to be a Kentucky Oaks stemless wine glass, rather than a traditional mint julep cup, but I liked that too).  I use it all the time!  I learned that I’m not a fan of Mint Juleps – I don’t think I’ll ever be a Bourbon girl…  I did learn that I love Louisville Hot Brown though!  It was a very messy sandwich, with Texas toast, turkey, bacon, tomato, cheeses and herbs all cooked together in a casserole dish, and it was so delicious!  The one at Churchill Downs was so full of gooey goodness I didn’t even know it was supposed to be a sandwich until I looked up the recipe.  I haven’t had it since, but maybe I should try to make it at home sometime!

Louisville Hot Brown and a Mint Julep

After my visit to the track, I drove around Louisville to check out some of the historic homes, and then went back to my campground to relax at the pool.  It was a fun day!

The pool at the Louisville KOA

 

 

 

Farewell to a Decade!

2019 is almost over, and with it we are leaving behind another decade.  Like every year, it has had its ups and downs, but sadly this year they were overshadowed by losing my Dad.  There were other joys and experiences, but between working through my grief and starting my new job, the happy times were just more subdued this year, and that’s okay.

  1. Dad died suddenly in February.  It has been hard without him; never having had the opportunity to say goodbye or tell him I love him one more time.  He left behind a lot of estate and probate stuff for my mom to work through, which is difficult to face when you are grieving.  All the milestones are new ones in our life without him.
  2. I did a 15K this year in March with my friends.  I didn’t train, as it was less than a month after dad died, but I finished.  My time with my friends is dear to me; they are a lifeline when I need them most. 
  3. Mom and I took a few days away in March and flew down to Tucson.  It was a nice mother-daughter trip, with some laughter, and definitely some tears, with both of us grieving. 
  4. I started a new job in March.  There’s a learning curve, and there was some drama in the beginning (not my drama!), but things there are good; the people are kind and reasonable and I feel valued.
  5. I visited Astoria in May; I met Jeff and the kids there for a Memorial Day long weekend of fun.  It was nice to check the place out and see some familiar places and some new ones.  Making new memories is always good! 
  6. I visited Westport, on the coast of Washington, in June with friends.  I had never been there.  The weather was cool and sort of rainy, which made for less than ideal camping weather, but we had fun checking out the lighthouse, grilling some delicious food, and walking the beach. I added a ton of sand dollars to my collection! 
  7. In July, Jeff and the kids and I took a whirlwind trip down to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. It was so much fun camping and hiking and checking out the waterfalls! Lassen is definitely a place I want to get back to soon.

    Lassen Volcanic National Park

  8. I didn’t do much hiking this summer because I was experiencing a lot of pain in my belly, but I did go on a couple of hikes.  My hike to Watson Lakes with Lelani was so much fun!
  9. Jeff and I met near Salem, Oregon on Labor Day weekend for a few days.  We checked out the Oregon State Hospital Museum, the Salem Farmer’s Market, and enjoyed our time together.  We also took a day to hike Silver Falls State Park, and saw all the beautiful waterfalls!  What an amazing experience! 
  10. In October, my girlfriends and I did a 10K in town.  It was fun to support a great charity and get some exercise as well!
  11. On December 23, I had a total abdominal hysterectomy.  I have been having pain and other troublesome symptoms for years, so it was time, but it was still scary to be wheeled into the operating room that morning!  My surgeon and nursing team were awesome and everything went smoothly.  My family came to the rescue, setting me up at home and taking care of me for the first several days.  My uterus and its benign fibroid tumors weighed over 5 pounds (a healthy uterus should weigh about 2-4 ounces) – 5 pounds of extra stuff in my belly causing havoc!  I am still healing, and moving pretty slow right now, but am already feeling relief from my symptoms and can tell I will be feeling better in no time! 

2020 is a whole new decade, and one that should have some new beginnings for me.  I’ll be able to spend more time with Jeff and the kids, and once I recover from my surgery, I’ll be able to get back to my active life!  Here’s to a lot of good things coming soon!

May the New Year bring you all peace and joy.